East West Bank funds Chinese distrib-producer
Bona Film Group has secured a $20 million revolving credit facility from East West Bank in what’s perhaps the first instance of a Chinese company borrowing U.S. money to make and acquire multiple films.Deal, announced in a release Thursday, will allow Bona to fund upcoming productions and acquire Chinese distribution rights to international films. “Securing this financing speaks to the strength of our business and strong relationships with international financial institutions,” said Bona CFO Amy Xu. “The additional capital provided under this credit facility will enable us to continue bringing high-quality, commercially successful films to moviegoers in China and abroad, and we look forward to a long-term working relationship with East West Bank.” With a mandate to work with companies based in U.S. and China, East West has lent to individual Chinese productions before. But even that is unusual for U.S. lenders, many of which have neither licenses to operate nor offices in China. That speaks to the larger issue facing Hollywood companies looking for entry into the booming Chinese market: How do investors, studio executives and banks navigate a landscape where distinguishing between real and less real opportunities can be difficult? Bona’s shares have somewhat underperformed since it listed on Nasdaq in 2010, but the company has worked on its transparency to lure overseas investors. The company sold a 19.9% stake to News Corp. in May, five months before Bona inked a modest one-to-two picture deal with the conglom’s Fox Intl. subsidiary. That’ll take advantage of Bona’s distribution operations, which unspool movies in Greater China, Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Europe. Company also invests and produces films in a variety of genres and owns and operates 15 movie theaters.